IT’S not often that you get a glimpse first hand of the thought process behind a major film production. Therefore I was eagerly awaiting the showing of a new film, Made in Dagenham, which has already received plaudits abroad and which some observers have likened to The Full Monty and Billy Elliot – two British films which became worldwide hits.
It was shown ahead of its nationwide release at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham as part of the independent cinema’s festival of film, TV and writing. But the real icing on the cake was the appearance of Made in Dagenham’s Nottingham-born writer William Ivory.
Now Mr Ivory likes to be called William on his credits but to his friends and a sell-out audience at the Broadway he asked to be addressed as Billy. The very down-to-earth Billy, who once worked as a dustman, has a string of quality TV credits on his CV, and gave a pre-film talk about screenwriting in general and then took part in a question and answer session after the film which related directly to Made in Dagenham and how the project came about.
Billy’s style is very laid-back and informal but there were some real nuggets included for those film buffs and aspiring screenwriters who like to get to the nitty-gritty of what makes a successful film tick.
He explained how he mastered the tricky task of blending fact and fiction, how bits that he wanted left in were cut out and bits people wanted cutting out stayed in at his insistence.
Made in Dagenham is a very British film, focusing as it does on the true events around a strike in 1968 by a group of women machinists at the Ford motor plant in the Essex town.
The strike lasted three weeks and paved the way eventually for government legislation which aimed to guarantee equal pay for women.
Billy Ivory’s script had a bit of everything, delightfully comic moments, pathos, social history and a tense climax as the women fought off male prejudice (including many of the men working members at Ford) to reach their goal in a classic shoot-out with Ford bosses who threatened to withdraw their cars from Britain if the women got equal pay.
Not surprisingly Billy said Made in Dagenham might appeal to American cinema-goers because its plot was basically cowboys and Indians.
There were some sterling performances from the actors, especially Sally Hawkins as Rita O’Grady, a fictional composite of several of the leading strikers, Miranda Richardson as the firebrand Labour Secretary of State Barbara Castle and Bob Hoskins as a trade unionist sympathetic to the women’s cause.
Made in Dagenham has quality stamped all over it from the cast, director Nigel Cole, who was also responsible for the award-winning Calendar Girls and a spot-on attention to 1960s detail by the art, set design and make-up people.
Add to that some memorable 60s songs as part of the soundtrack and it’s easy to see why many people are forecasting it will be a winner and not just inside British shores.
The Nottingham lad done good….